Anishnaabekiing, Ontario – The environmental assessment process for a proposed Deep Geologic Repository for nuclear waste has been halted until the Saugeen Ojibway Nation has made an informed decision on whether or not to support the project.
Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change has made a request for additional information from Ontario Power Generation (OPG), who proposed the waste repository, that hinges on the outcome of a decision-making process from Saugeen Ojibway Nation communities.
The decision-making process was launched after the Nation received a commitment from OPG on August 7, 2013, that they would not build the proposed repository for low- and intermediate-level waste without the consent of the Saugeen Nation communities.
The Saugeen Nation Joint Chiefs and Councils are celebrating the historic decision. Minister McKenna’s request for information, they say, is an acknowledgement of the Nation’s right to free, prior and informed consent as stipulated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“The commitment from OPG secured our right to consent … but our People have maintained that our right to free, prior and informed consent must also be recognized by the Crown,” said Chief Lester Anoquot of Chippewas of Saugeen First Nation. “This has finally happened. This is a victory we share with all Indigenous Peoples fighting similar battles to have their right to consent respected.”
Saugeen Ojibway Nation leaders have fought for more than a decade to ensure the voice of their communities would be heard.
“Low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste keeps coming into our Territory and accumulating at the Bruce site in Kincardine,” said Chief Greg Nadjiwon of the Chippewas of Nawash First Nation. “We must have a say in this. The Minister’s statements tell us that our voice on the nuclear waste issue is important to Canada and rightfully so.”
In 2016, the Nation won another hard-fought victory when the Nuclear Waste Management Organization committed that they would not site a nuclear repository for Canada’s high-level waste in their Territory without the consent of local communities.
In her letter to OPG, Minister McKenna wrote that, “Indigenous government, laws and jurisdiction must be respected.” These types of commitments are critical to achieving reconciliation between First Nations, the Crown, and proponents and “ensures the protection of our rights, interests and way of life,” said Chief Anoquot. “The Minister’s decision is an important step on the path to reconciliation.”